Simon Sinek Speaks at CreativeMornings San Diego – October 2016

Storytelling encompasses a variety of styles, from the personal, to the historical and investigative. There’s another style that I’m calling analytical, in which a situation or paradigm is broken down and examined in order to find the underlying truth. This is not an easy fete to pull off, but Simon Sinek has become a master at doing it in a way that resonates with the audience.

You may have watched his talk from TEDxPugetSound in 2009 on How great leaders inspire action, or his talk at TED 2014 on Why good leaders make you feel safe. In each case he peels back the onion on connection between why humans do what they do, and why they feel how they feel.

Simon’s talk at CreativeMornings San Diego was titled Understanding the Game We’re Playing, which focused on the current state of the millennial generation, and why they are often misunderstood by previous generations.

Whenever he’s asked to describe what’s going on with the millennial generation, Simon replies with four observations – parenting, technology, impatience and environment. In Simon’s view, millennials are not entitled, narcissistic, or lazy, but instead were simply dealt a bad hand, by their parents, and by society.

Could it be that engaging with social media is, in the end, a dopamine addiction, similar to the desire for drugs or alcohol? Are they turning to technology, instead of turning to real people in their life? Are social skills being diminished due to the ease of avoiding interaction?

The generation of hard work and long journeys – life, career, relationships – has , for some, shifted to an environment of impatience and the need for instant gratification. Compounding the problem is the move by corporations away from people and toward the bottom line.

Simon offers the view that life is not a scavenger hunt, jumping from job to job, and relationship to relationship. Instead the challenge is in finding a sense of purpose, fulfillment and joy, and that will only occur when the current generation undertakes the hard work of repairing the world around us. And it will only occur when we realize that our true competition, is us, not someone else.

Simon Sinek’s Website

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Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Exploring the Mehrabian Myth

Every profession as its own set of rules, instructions and standards. As you might expect, these guidelines will vary, sometimes widely, as every individual has their own take on what works best, but in general, they adhere to generally accepted guidelines. On occasion, however, a convention will appear that is egregious false, yet becomes something of a meme and is widely disseminated.

The notion that words don’t matter, or more accurately, that they matter very little when compared to our facial expressions, or the sound of our voice, constitutes one such myth. As often happens, the myth was derived from scientific research, but simply misinterpreted, or misstated, and the resulting meme that is spread far and wide bares little resemblance to the intent of the original research publication. In short, a mangled version of the truth, somehow becomes the truth.

Sometimes this myth is referred to as the 7%-38%-55% Rule, while in other situations it’s offered up as a claim that states “93% of all communication is non-verbal”. In either case it’s 100% bullshit, but let’s dive into the numbers, and the source of the information which became the myth.

We’ll time travel back to 1967, when Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor of Psychology at UCLA, conducted a study that examined how people reacted when they heard words that did not match the tone of the speakers voice, like saying, “Of course I love you honey.”, but in a sarcastic tone that clearly indicated you were mad. In these cases, when the tone was out of alignment with the words, the tone of voice was perceived to be more powerful.

Dr. Albert MehrabianIn a 2nd study, Dr. Mehrabian compared vocal elements with a speaker’s facial expressions, and found that facial elements were more powerful than vocal elements. Face trumps Tone. By combining these studies he came up with the following summary:

  • 55% is what the audience sees – it’s your body language
  • 38% is what the audience hears – the tone of your voice
  • 7% is what you actually say – the words within your talk

To get a visual synopsis of the issue, take a moment to watch this video from CreativityWorks.

“The non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude, especially when they are incongruent: if words and body language disagree, one tends to believe the body language.”
– Dr. Albert Mehrabian

In 2009 BBC reporter Tim Harford asked Dr. Mehrabian
if 93% of communication was non-verbal:

“Absolutely not, and whenever I hear that misquote or misrepresentation of my findings I cringe because it should be so obvious to anybody who would use any amount of common sense that that’s not the correct statement.”

The point being, his studies were never intended to examine the relative importance of words, tone or expressions within the context of our conversations, much less public speaking and storytelling from the stage, yet the myth was created and continues to thrive like a classic urban legend.

“There’s just no question that you cannot extrapolate my findings to communication in general.” – Dr. Albert Mehrabian

You can think about it this way. If you really think that 97% of communication is non-verbal, then try describing the movie you just saw to your best friend – without using any words. Charades anyone?

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Marwa Al-Sabouni at TEDSummit 2016

How Syria’s architecture laid the foundation for brutal war

While some stories are meant to be a factual record of what has happened, delving deeper into the why it happened, and what we should do, involves a collection of subjective assumptions, individual conclusions, and personal hypothesis. In this talk from the TEDSummit 2016 conference, delivered by Marwa Al-Sabouni via the internet, we see such a blend.

Marwa takes us into the city of Homs, Syria where she has always lived, and which has been ravaged by years of conflict. While recognizing the fact that there were many factors which caused the war, she takes a close look at the role of architecture in regards to how it can strengthen, or weaken, the social fabric of a community.

Architecture is not the axis around which all human life rotates, but it has the power to suggest and even direct human activity.

In classic Ideas Worth Spreading style, Marwa’s talk combines harsh reality (facts that can be verified) with personal insights and suggestions in a way that compels the listener to pause, consider her perspective, and then reconsider their own preconceived notions.

Read more

The Craft of TEDx Speaker Coaching

As the TEDxSanDiego organizer for 6 years, organizer for TEDxMonumento258, and having attended 80+ TED/TEDx events since 2010, I’ve experienced a wide variety of stories and accompanying narrative styles. Like a fingerprint, each story is unique, as is each storyteller, and part of that uniqueness is related to the speaker coaching that happens behind the scenes, long before the speaker greets their audience to tell their story.

In my experience few TEDx attendees, or the viewers of TED/TEDx videos, are aware of the speaker prep that occurs in the months preceding an event, which is a shame, as the coaching process is such an important aspect of creating a memorable TEDx experience.

So how does that process work? Just as each speaker and story are unique, every coaching process is unique, as sessions are tailored to the speaker’s talent, experience, and narrative. In addition, no two speaker coaches are the same, with each having developed their own approach to the process. The intent, however, is the same. To maximize the speaker’s impact, and that only happens when a speaker truly connects with the audience with a talk that contains a relevant message.

Silhouette Speaker on Stage

Seeking that combination of connection and relevance is where I begin with a speaker. In the world of TED/TEDx, the mantra is Ideas Worth Spreading, and that phrase means that attendees in the audience, and viewers of the video, will find the idea compelling enough to tell their friends, family, co-workers and associates.

It’s never the job of a coach to write the story, that’s always the responsibility of the speaker, but rather to help define the central idea of the story, assist in the selection of assets which support that idea, and provide guidance on how best to thread those assets into a narrative that will both capture the audience’s attention, and convey the idea in a meaningful way.

Future blog posts will delve deeper into the details and mechanics, but in the meantime, think about the idea that you want to tell the world about, and write down why the audience would find value in hearing that particular idea. How would their lives change, how would they think differently, and most importantly, how would they act differently?

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved

 

Storytelling Defined

What image comes to mind when you hear that word? Maybe you envision someone speaking from a stage, or an actor delivering dialogue in a movie. Maybe your mind ventures far back in time to a campfire that’s surrounded by American cowboys, or maybe African tribesmen. In any case, you’re visualizing the art of spoken language, a process by which words are arranged in a manner that conveys meaning, transmitted from one human to another in the form of a story.

But in a very real sense, storytelling began long before humans could communicate with words, going back to a period in our evolution when thoughts could only be expressed with gestures and grunts. Storytelling at that juncture was all about survival: avoiding danger (animals that wanted to eat them) and finding food (animals that they wanted to eat). Some stories were also told visually, in the form of cave paintings as far back as 40,000 years.

Cave-Painting - Cueva de las Manos Hands

Cave-Painting - Cave of Altamira Bison

As language developed, human storytelling expanded from pressing issues of survival to recounting history, educating society, sharing new ideas, and entertaining the masses. Regardless of the intent, or intended audience, the process consisted of humans constructing their stories based on a deliberate selection of internal knowledge (what they thought was true, or what they wanted others to believe was true) combined with their own conscious and unconscious biases.

As this video illustrates, technology has changed the landscape of personal storytelling, largely due to the ability to share videos over the internet. From fictional accounts, to instructional how-tos and the spreading of ideas and opinions, such stories can be captured direct to camera, or by recording a talk that was given in a public forum.

Yet another technology that has allowed storytelling to have a much greater impact is podcasting. Stories predicting the demise of podcasts turned out to be premature (totally bogus) and instead we’ve seen the practice expand, with many podcasts targeting very specific audiences and formats.

As you begin the process of creating your story, keep in mind the global reach that video and audio provide, and the unique style of storytelling that works best within each of these formats.

Article written by Mark Lovett – Copyright Storytelling with Impact – All rights reserved